Archive for December, 2011

Ryan: Where does strength come from?

Where does strength come from?
The other day I was finishing up a “yog,” as Sara and I call them.  “Yogs” are runs on those days after really hard workouts when the fatigue is so great from the previous days effort that it reduces us to a humbling snails-paced easy run that is even slower than a “jog,” thus a “yog.”  These are the less glamorous days that never make it into any web video.  On such days there are many humbling moments when recreational runners of both genders come screaming by me.  

Anyways, as I was finishing up my “yog” I was thinking about strength and where it comes from.  In the final couple of weeks before the marathon there isn’t much hard training left to do so with the extra energy I train my mind and my spirit.  There are lots of different ways I like to train my mind and spirit, one of which is to confront some of the thoughts that I know will come up in my mind during the course of the marathon.  I have never run a marathon when I didn’t have a passing negative thought or a thought of doubt when I questioned if I had what it took to get to the finish line successfully.  The key for me is being prepared for these thoughts when they come, thus I must train myself how to mentally react when these thoughts come.
The biggest doubt that creeps into my head is, “I don’t have the strength to keep running this fast all the way to the finish line.”  To combat this thought I like to think about where my strength comes from so that when I am questioning my strength I can use this negative thought as a que to remember where my strength comes from.

One of my favorite things to do when I am really hurting in a marathon and questioning my strength is to look to the sky.  I love this verse in the bible that says,

 “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; 

From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

I find strength when I look to God and I fix my gaze on Him.  For me, looking to the sky is my way of looking to God.  The sensation I get when I look to God isn’t always a physical surge of power, although it can be at times, but what I always experience is a deep sense of peace that comes over me allowing me to endure the pain.  With the peace I am able to relax in the pain and then usually with the relaxing into the pain I find my body starts moving more freely and effortlessly, allowing me to run faster.  

The Bible talks about Jesus “enduring the cross for the joy set before Him,” (Hebrews 12:2) which I find very interesting.  I am in no way trying to be a scholar here but my simple interpretation of this passage is that Jesus was inspired by the reward He would get as a result of enduring the pain.  I try and apply this same line of thinking by thinking about the reward of my suffering.  If I know my suffering is going to bring lasting health and wellness to others I find that I can endure far more pain then when I am just focused on the rewards of money, prizes, ect, which is why I run for Steps and why I try and encourage everyone to run for some type of charity.  Not only is it good for others when we run with a heart to help others but it is also extremely motivating.  

My last thoughts on enduring pain is the importance of remaining thankful, joyful, and excited throughout the race.  When I was running the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, for the first half of the race I did a good job of maintaining a thankful, joyful, and excited heart but when things got really hard at the 13 mile mark and the lead group began to split apart as a result of a hard surge I lost my connection with God and as a result, lost my joy, thankfulness, and excitement.  Though I did battle to run my very best over the second half of the race it was difficult because my focus shifted off of God and onto results.  I was getting lots of negative thoughts and allowed myself to get bummed that I wasn’t in contention to win the race or run a personal best anymore.  It says in the Bible that “In His presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).  So I am learning to train myself before the race that no matter how hard it gets, or how fast or slow I am running, or how I feel, if I am looking for strength I need only to look to the sky, get into God’s presence, and as a result be filled up with joy, thankfulness, and excitement, then I will be filled with the strength I need to get to the finish line successfully.  


Ryan and Sara answer your health quesitons!

We at Steps want to make sure everyone has a healthy and happy New Year so for 2012 we are answering your questions every Friday. We’ll send out a reminder early in the week and then Ryan and Sara will choose a few questions to answer and we’ll post them on the website.


1) I would like some tips on pushing past “the wall”. I listen to the wrong side of the brain at about mile 19 or 20. I must get pass this barrier! Any suggestions? You know how to push the limits!


Ryan: My recommendation is to be fully present in the mile that you are on at the time- don’t think what’s ahead.  I’ve been hurting in some marathons at mile 13, and if I were to listen to “that side of the brain” I would never have run some of my fastest marathons.  You have to just be in the moment and know that if you get through this one, you will have what it takes for the next one

Sara: A mantra that I often use to run through the pain is “relax and roll”.  I relax my breathing, relax my form, try to run as relaxed as possible while maintaining the pace.  Though I’ve never run a marathon, I would do the same thing at mile 20!


2) How can you tell the difference between a pain you can push through and a potential injury you should stop for?


Our rule of thumb is usually if it hurts after you stop running, when you are walking around, etc. then it is not just a pain from the running itself but something that is inflamed.  Depending on the injury, there are different ones that you can more successfully run through.  Plantar Fascitis, for example, can kind of come and go, and taking time off doesn’t necessarily help the issue always.  So sometimes it can be ok to run through whereas a stress fracture will only get worse.  It’s important to find a good massage/physical therapist who knows athletics injuries and can help you discern.


3) How and when do you begin your taper?


I usually do my last really hard long effort 2 1/2 weeks before the goal race.  After that, I will still do hard workouts, but the distance will decrease.  I keep the intensity the same so that I am not flat on race day.  My mileage doesn’t drastically decrease, but my last week before the marathon I will cut out most of my 2nd runs and just run once a day 45-60 minutes.  Tapering is individual though, so experiment with it!


Cooking for nutritious meal suggestions that are runner specific:


We don’t use any cookbooks or websites personally, we see cooking as an art more than a science and like to create healthy meals from what we have in the fridge.  Our meals are basically heavy on leafy green vegetables, whole grains carbohydrates like rice and sweet potatoes, and lean meats (usually beef, fish, or pork).  We buy a variety of things in these categories and just create from there, adding in some healthy fat like avocados or olive oil and always finishing with dark chocolate.  We are thinking of writing a cookbook though, so be on the lookout for that in the future!



Is it ok to run 6 days a week : I run on a treadmill 8k in 33 mins.


I (Ryan) only run 6 days a week now.  For a long time I ran every day and rarely took a day off, but I got very rundown and overtrained.  So now, I like to follow the commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”.  I don’t believe this is something that everyone needs to follow now, but it works for me and I feel like God was emphasizing the need to rest.  I like to have a day that I don’t do any running-related things- no stretching, running interviews, etc. It helps me create balance in my life since my job is kind of all-consuming.

Steps Funds Food Security in Kenya

Steps is excited to have written checks for 100% of the money raised by our runners at Chicago Marathon to go to funding short term and long term food security in Northern Kenya, which is experiencing a severe food crisis. Ryan and Sara committed this year’s funds from the Bank of America Chicago Marathon to honor the late Sammy Wanjiru, who died suddenly this year after winning the Chicago Marathon in 2010.  In his honor, $65,000 in emergency aid from World Vision will be provided to people throughout Northern Kenya where drought has caused failed crops, resulting in famine (Steps donated $13,000 and it was multiplied 5x by matching gifts).


Also, $13,000 was donated to KickStart, which will result in the following:

205        People out of Poverty in Kenya
41        New rural entrepreneurial farming businesses started
70        Children in school for the first time – or attending better schools
23        New job positions will be created

(Pictures of work KickStart is doing will be up shortly!)


Steps is committed to supporting organizations and initiatives that believe in fighting poverty through health. To learn more about these grants and organizations please view our fall grant announcement.